This Article is About
self doubt
panic mode
traumatic experience
studying for exams
Exams? How Best To Study
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Exams? How Best to Study

Studying for exams may be a traumatic experience in anyone’s life. If not tackled correctly students and scholars can suffer “blanks” in the exam room. So how best is it to prepare for exams?

Don’t prepare for them! Well not in the final minute in any case. The day before an exam must be spent relaxing, calm and shutting out any anxiety one might feel about the subject.

Let’s be honest, what do you think you can get into your head the day before the exam? Probably absolutely nothing, in fact last minute cramming can do more damage than good. Picture opening a book and seeing something you know nothing about. What will happen inside your head? Panic and definitely you will sit there and say “there will be a question on this”.

Chances are there won’t be, but because you have now hit “panic mode”, all that you do know gets pushed back and a certain amount of self-doubt will creep in. That self-convincing thought will force you to try to understand something that you will probably never have an understanding of.

What will this do to all you already know? Probably push it back so far in the mind, that you will now convince yourself you know nothing; and when you enter the exam room the following day, a blank is likely to strike.

Now here is my solution, but it does take a certain amount of discipline. Don’t cram at the end of term, semester or year, learn on the day you're taught it. If you can do that you will never have to cram, sure a little refreshers will be in order, but no cramming and no panicking.

Let’s be honest, the brain is a wonderful tool, more wonderful than your laptop, iPad or any other such device. It has a hard disk that far out strips all computers, even the most powerful. All that's needed is that you understand the points of learning and know the subject correctly and it'll be stored forever.

I remember my first year of tertiary education as though it was yesterday, I'd been sent to study by my employer after completing my required basic military training. Had my military training taught me how to learn? I thought not, but it had taught me discipline.

Back to my first day, sitting in a lecture room with eighty-eight other students, the first subject was to be higher mathematics. The hour came and in walked a man of middle age, he never greeted us, nor took any kind of roll call to make sure we were all there. First thought, this lecture will be easy to dodge. He dropped his books on the table or lectern and turned his back to us, started to write on the board and talk.

Looking around all I could see was blank stares and mouths agape, this was not like school. Was he not supposed to tell us what he was on about? The hour passed, he looked at his watch, assembled his books and walked out. Being a big mouth I commented “What the hell has just happened?” this did raise a very supercilious laugh from a room full of students in the same boat as I. “Did anyone make any notes?” I asked. Not one said they had.

There was no need to panic, we had a second lecture later on that afternoon and I vowed to ask the question then. That time arrived and as the lecturer entered I asked if we'd been required to take notes in the first lecture. I will never forget that answer; “Mr, whomever you are, I am not paid to teach you, but to lecture on the subject. You, sir, have paid to come here and learn, so it is up to you whether you make a note or not.” Subject closed, back turned and off he went again.

We all made notes this time and before he'd a chance to walk out, I asked how we could learn if not taught. I think he thought I the class joker, but gave me an answer “If you have questions, you may obtain an appointment to see me in my off times, but don’t expect me to teach you in that time, ask a question, an intelligent one, that shows me you understand what you are asking and I will give you an answer. But, if you don’t understand, use the library or other senior students to learn, they charge a fee I don’t, so if you ask stupid questions I show you where the door is.”

That was that and from there on I spent every evening making sure I fully understood what I’d been taught that day. If there was anything I was not sure about I made appointments and got the necessary answers from the lecturers the very next day. Now this took discipline and some evenings I spent six odd hours till I fully understood everything that been lectured. I was studying to become a Land Surveyor and became one with top marks in every subject.

Did I at any time cram at the end of semesters? No, I might have gone over a few points as refreshers that I felt a little weary of, but the days before exams, I relaxed and thought about anything except the upcoming exams. The subjects were in my head and could never be erased, no "delete" buttons on the body, all it needed was a trigger and out it came.

This same method can be practiced by anyone, it takes discipline and commitment, but it is so much easier than panicking the few weeks before final exams. It is impossible to get a year’s work learnt and understood three weeks before the exam, so follow this advice and you will enter the exam room relaxed and ready to answer whatever's asked of you.

Street Talk

Well said!I used to teach at University as well as being a student for many years. We are indeed best at learning one day at a time.

  about 8 years ago

WOW I would have been dazed and probably acted like a cry baby... It was great that you took it and learned from it. Great story, I shared it. God bless Kymee

  about 9 years ago

Thanks Kymee... If others can learn something from it I've achieved my intention...

  about 9 years ago

Sound advice Rob - get it learnt upfront. Really pleased I do not have to take exams anymore.

  about 9 years ago

That does make two of us... I specially wrote this for one of my grandchildren that is struggling at school... thinks he can wait till three weeks before exams and then starts to learn, then wonders why he fails..

  about 9 years ago
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